Places of Pause in a City That Never Sleeps: NYC's Hidden Meditation Spots - Atlas Obscura
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Places of Pause in a City That Never Sleeps: NYC’s Hidden Meditation Spots


Pausing on the NYC subway (photograph by Susan Sermoneta)

No one expects the intense velocity of New York City to stop for them. But human beings are known to short circuit without a moment of pause here and there to reflect. No matter your religious belief or method of practice, meditation can be an incredibly healing mind-body therapy. One just needs to find a place of their own to be still and breathe.

Maybe it is no surprise that a city notorious for never sleeping would also hold so many beautiful little tranquil spots of weary citizen asylum. But when millions of resourceful New Yorkers are seeking out a transcendental corner of their own, what aloneness can still be found out there? Here is a guide to finding secret, silent places of pause waiting for a contemplative soul to makes its way there for some solitude. 

BARCLAYS CENTER MEDITATION ROOM
Main Concourse, Barclays Center
620 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn

screenshot from News12 Brooklyn

Tucked inside Brooklyn’s giant sports and music arena constructed over an MTA rail yard, is a 150-square-foot lavender room with walls proclaiming “Love” and “Joy.” This is the meditation room of Barclay’s Center, where there is mostly empty seating and always silence, so those seeking it can find the headspace they need and set some intentions before or after the game. 

LE PETIT VERSAILLES
346 Houston Street, betwwwn Avene C & D, East Village, Manhattan

photograph by Mat McDermott

This community garden hosts public art and culture events and celebrations, but it was created to offer a place of daily meditation to wandering souls of the East Village. Hours of le Petit Versailles in the East Village are 2 pm to 7 pm Thursday through Sunday. Enjoy all the botanical whimsy and creative landscaping on a breezy afternoon, and strings of twinkling lights in the evening. If you need inspiration, just soak up the history of social activism and art connected to the garden since its birth in 1996. 

SCULPTURECENTER
44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City, Queens

photograph by Andrew Russeth 

From 11 am to 6 pm, Thursday to Monday, for a suggested donation of $5, you can utilize this LIC waterfront gallery space of experimental sculpture art as a portal to your higher mind, through thought provoking exhibitions and general serenity of the minimalist space. Something to contemplate: According to the SculptureCenter’s website, its building on Purves Street in Long Island City was a former trolley repair shop. The building is a little hard to find, making it the perfect door to slip into for slipping away from the daily grind.

CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE
Secret observation spot
Amsterdam & 111th Street, Morningside Heights, Manhattan

photograph by Trish Mayo

There is a little sitting area off the beaten path at Amsterdam and 111th Street in Morningside Heights, from which you can sometimes get visits from the resident peacocks of Cathedral of St. John the Divine across the street. Contemplate their ancient symbolism of guidance and protection if you like. One beautiful white peacock, named “Phil” by groundskeepers, brings to mind the legend of Lord Sananda, the “white magician” and shaman who was accompanied and symbolized by a white peacock. For those looking for more mystical meditation, this might be your spot.

EARTH ROOM
141 Wooster Street, Soho, Manhattan

photograph by timnyc

Walter De Maria’s “interior earth sculpture,” as described by the artist, puts the weight of the world in 3,600 square feet in Soho, where it is has been quietly contained since 1977, and open to the public and maintained by the Dia Art Foundation since 1980. The Earth Room is closed in summer, but reopens September 10, with hours from 12 to 3 pm and 3:30 to 6 pm, Wednesday through Sunday. There is no cost to find some clarity in the overview above the apartment filled with dirt, and take in the forest floor aroma. 

WAVE HILL
675 W 252nd Street, The Bronx

photograph by ninepennies

Wave Hill in the Bronx has long been a place of peaceful rest and recovery for affluent New York families, but today it is a public sanctuary. It boasts one of the most glorious views of the Hudson River, an impressive greenhouse, and a reflecting pool in the aquatic garden. Take retreat in these carefully conserved grounds surrounding a noble estate where Mark Twain and the Roosevelt family once found respite. And if the gardens are a little touristy, head for the outlying wooded areas and take a trail somewhere a little more solitary.  

THE JACQUES MARCHAIS MUSEUM OF TIBETAN ART
338 Lighthouse Avenue, Staten Island

 photograph by bobIstraveling

The humble Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art on Staten Island has verdant gardens and a koi pond with floating lotuses on its grounds. This lovingly designed little shrine in a hillside was dreamed up back in 1945 by Madame Marchais, a former actress, who wanted the substantial garden and its pathways through her museum property to quietly invite meditation. So take a conscious breath and let the spirituality of the gardens lead you where they may

PROSPECT LAKE PENINSULA
Prospect Lake
Prospect Park, Brooklyn


photograph by Violette7

Prospect Park is well-known for being a gorgeous nature escape at the center of Brooklyn. Considered the borough’s Central Park and designed by the same duo — Olmsted and Vaux — Prospect Park is just as geographically awe-inspiring and pleasurable to explore as its more famous Manhattan sibling. While it has very public locations like the Picnic House, carousel, and bandshell, Prospect Park is known for being home to so many secluded spots; parkgoers report pleasant surprise in stumbling across new pastoral views, hidden nooks, and charming clearings upon each visit. One spot recommended is the peninsula of Prospect Lake where, at the tip, a lonesome little pagoda awaits the curious who traipse through leafy trails for this unique view of local water fowl enjoying a quiet shoreline. 

THE GARDENS AT CHURCH OF ST. LUKE IN THE FIELDS
487 Hudson Street, West Village, Manhattan

photograph by Rachel Kramer Bussel 

Stroll the West Village’s smaller cobblestone streets, and many quieter blocks can felt special, shadowy, and all your own. But then there is this old Episcopal church’s public gardens, separated into six areas of specific foliage and design, all of which are cell phone free zones. From 8a.m. to dusk each day, the public is welcome to take a break in the gardens at St. Luke in the Fields to smell the roses, provided everyone agrees to go off the grid and be present in the moment. 

ROOSEVELT ISLAND PROMENADE
Roosevelt Island

photograph by David Berkowitz

And finally, there is Roosevelt Island. As a Queens resident a couple years back, I used to stop off the F train early at Roosevelt Island to decompress and process the day, usually right before sunset. I wanted to feel removed from the city entirely. And what better way than to escape to this little island, separate from the boroughs and yet right in the center of it all, and take in a grand vista of Manhattan. The promenade is rarely bustling in the evening, mostly just a dog walker or two or a young couple. The East River laps gently up the rocks below and each time it recedes, you can let go of another grievance or stressor. By far it is my favorite place to find a real “happy hour,” spent alone with the skyline.